Thirty- or forty-something gamers likely have fond memories of dumping quarters into their favorite arcade game in the ’80s. To some, it was all about Pac-Man, while to others the addiction of choice may have been Frogger, Space Invaders or Centipede. For me, it was Galaga. Who could resist those swirling, insect-like aliens you can shoot out of the star-studded sky?
Fast-forward to 2007 and we now have another arcade space shooter, Star Defender 3 – a spiritual successor to Galaga, if you will – but one we can now play in the comfort of our own home instead of at the local arcade. And perhaps it’s no mistake it says “Galaga Download” at the top of the official Star Defender 3 website (hmm, a sneaky way to get traffic from search engines?).
Star Defender 3 takes place in the year 2743, just two years after the last war against the vicious Insectus race. These swarming beasts are back in greater numbers than before, so it’s up to you to lead the human forces to battle back and destroy them before they can invade the Earth. Instead of mere missiles, you now have a handful of weapons at your disposal, including homing mines, nuclear bombs, laser blasts and lightning strikes. If you choose the mouse to control the game, the left button is used to fire your primary weapons, while the right button is reserved for secondary fire. Most weapons let you hold down the left button as a kind of rapid pulse fire, which is a satisfying way to clear the screen.
Similar to Galaga, the game is viewed from a top-down perspective, showing your ship at the bottom of the screen and firing up towards the circling space creatures. Each type of alien moves in a unique attack pattern: some soar down at an angle towards your hapless ship; another kind circle like bees near the top; and a third moves across the screen horizontally, leaving other creatures in its path. Bigger aliens appear every few levels, each with their own life bar you can chip away at (so you know how well or poorly you’re doing!). At the end of the eight main worlds (housing more than 100 levels) awaits a huge “boss” fighter that takes some patience and determination to destroy.
If you’re able to scoop them up, power-ups continuously fall down onto the screen, which gives you new weapons, an hourglass that slows down time, 500 points bonus, temporary invincibility, and so on.
Players can choose from multiple skill levels and the option to post their final score to a Worldwide Hall of Fame list.
Star Defender 3 is a fun and frantic space shooter that should appeal to those who grew up on those types of games, but despite the wealth of levels, weapons and power-ups, game-play is merely average. There’s nothing wrong with the game, per se, but I’m not sure how addictive it is – compared to other casual games that are incredibly difficult to turn off. This is, of course, a very subjective opinion.
Another concern, and one that could impact the game’s sales potential, is that sci-fi arcade shooters won’t appeal to as many people as other casual games. At the risk of generalizing, female gamers, for example, may be more likely to download puzzle-based games such as Chuzzle, tile games like Mahjongg or micromanagement sims a la Diner Dash or Cake Mania.
But for those with fond memories at the arcade a quarter of a century ago will likely find value – and nostalgia – in Star Defender 3.